Your Not-So-Obvious Best Fidelity LPs

I’ve spent over three years building up to the system I have now.  I’m really happy with it and my wife and I love sitting in our listening room spinning various vinyl most evenings.  Rather than researching and testing gear, I want to spend this year adding great recordings to our collection.

So what are the albums you have that every time you play it you're continually amazed at its fidelity?  You might have spent $80 on it or just $1 or maybe it was a hand-me-down decades ago.  Any genre really.

And if we can please avoid the most obvious choices (which are truly wonderful) such as Pink Floyd, The Eagles, Diana Krall, etc.  I’m looking for albums, (vinyl only please) that probably fly under the radar for most folks.

I'll start….

James Taylor - Dad Loves His Work - this was just given to me by a friend a couple of weeks ago as he had an extra copy.  I have plenty of JT albums but I didn’t have this one yet.  As soon as I put it on I could tell it was special.

Edie Brickell - Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars - My wife requested this one so I found a NM copy on Discogs for a reasonable price.  This kind of blew my socks off.  Sounds really wonderful and present and the music still holds up.

Counting Crows - August and Everything After - I surprised my wife with this one as it’s one of her favorite albums.  They really nailed the recording and pressing on this one.  It’s quite impressive. 

Ben Folds - What Matters Most - He’s one of our favorite songwriters but trying to find a copy of anything of his or Ben Folds Five for under $80 is nearly impossible.  This album was released just last year and they obviously paid special attention to the recording quality.  Sounds just phenomenal. 

Steely Dan - Northeast Corridor - Obviously everyone knows how amazing their studio recordings are but this album might be unknown to some as it came out just a few years ago.  I bought it on a whim knowing nothing about it.  It’s amazing.  As if they would release an album with less than stellar fidelity.  If you’re a Dan fan, this album is a no-brainer.

REM - Automatic for the People - Completely hypnotic.  Stunning recording.

OK, that’s enough from me.  


It’s fun getting an LP because you like the music and being really surprised how good it sounds.  

I found an original U.S. ‘Frisco Mabel Joy by Mickey Newbury for 25 cents at a thrift store about a decade ago.  
The sound quality almost seemed like a joke, i.e. “I can’t actually be hearing what I’m hearing right now.” I knew the music was tremendous, but the idea that the engineering/mastering would be so good seemed like a joke.  
One of those thrilling, “holy s**t!!” moments.

I got an original U.S. 12” single of “Cat People” by Giorgio Moroder / David Bowie years ago for peanuts. I didn’t listen to it, just bought it. Years later I had a very good music setup, for some reason decided to throw that 12” on and sat there amazed at what I was hearing.

I remember playing an original US pressing of Neil Young’s Harvest I had just bought (with the ‘fuzzy’ texture sleeve and the cool inserts, got it for real cheap) and going, “whoa! Didn’t expect this!” I remembered the CD I had as a teen (I wasn’t around in the vinyl days…I’m 41) as being unremarkable sonically. Not this puppy.  

Same thing with an original US Berlin by Lou Reed. Loved the CD as a teen.  
Got a cheap original vinyl copy in my 30s. Lou’s voice was this big, three-dimensional apparition, sitting right there in the center, felt like I could reach out and touch it, the instruments were big, rich, lush and grand and clear. Didn’t expect all that.

And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out by Yo La Tengo was one of my favorite albums in high school. I got an original vinyl pressing (this one was not cheap) a few years ago at Amoeba. I remembered the 2000 CD sounding alright. This, however, was really something.

Digging through miles of “Easy Listening” vinyl LPs at a record store, LPs that had been on this massive shelf in the back room for decades, inches of dust on them, (the kind you ‘taste’ while sorting through), I found a bunch of original ‘60s Sinatra LPs. In terms of sound quality, September of My Years (I was able to score at least one copy of both the mono and the stereo, for a grand total of some $2 or something) was stunning. The record store guys saw me a lot, so they were cool about giving me deals. I would go in there and they’d say, “hey, this came in and I thought of you, so I set it aside.” It was a bunch of original ‘50s & ‘60s-era Sinatra LPs. I came to find that I should never be surprised by the sound quality of those Capital & Reprise LPs.  
But that initial exposure to both the original mono and stereo copies of September of My Years was just blow-yer-hair-back great. The music, obviously speaks for itself. Incredible.  
There must not have been much of a market for those LPs, as those guys darn near gave them away. There was once an original ‘57 mono of In the Wee Small Hours on the shelf for some $8 or something. Pretty good condition, sounded real fine after a thorough cleaning via Audio Intelligent 3-part /16.5 vacuum machine.  
He even gave me a discount on the sticker because I one 1 or 2 other LPs in my stack.  
Went and saw on Discogs it goes for upwards of $200.

Mahler123 mentioned Joni Mitchell. 
I have early copies of all her LPs from ‘68-‘75 and they all sound great. I’m particularly impressed with the sound of The Hissing of Summer Lawns.

There are a lot more but I’ve gushed too much.

Sorry, one more: larryi mentioned those live Carnegie Hall Belafonte LPs.  
I have to concur.  
Also, Belafonte recorded the song “My Old Paint” in ‘63, and this vocal track is on my short list of “All-Time Best Sounding Vocal Tracks.” 

One of my favorite records is one I found in the $1.00 section of a used record store.  It is the very first recording of Ariel Ramirez's "Missa Criolla." (first Vatican approved mass in the vernacular following Vatican II).  The recording is on the Phillips label (the copy I found was on Argentinian Phillips, which is particularly appropriate because Ramirez is from Argentina).  The music is fantastic and the sound of the recording is quite good too.  There are many copies available for as little as $2.00 or so:



Thanks for remindng us about the Nonesuch label. Although not sonically consistent throughout its catalog, when those guys got it right, they produced recordings that still stand up to many of today's best. And the fact that the NS catalog included so much new music -- many  pieces by modern composers that were never recorded in any form elsewhere -- is icing.  Lots of unique material available used online at modest prices.


And for something completely different, how about a thread *warning* people about "not-so-obvious LOWEST fidelity LPs"?


To start the ball rolling, I nominate the Sony Legacy reissue of "Jimi Hendrix Experience Smash Hits," remastered from original 2-channel "master tape" by Bernie Grundman and pressed at QRP.  It's horribly brittle, actually unlistenable on a system that leans (much less older Class D amplification). I have numerous Hendrix original pressings & reissues that include many of the same tracks, and the difference is painfully obvious. Caveat this one.

Great stories @tylermunns to go along with the great recommendations!  Thanks for those.  It almost seems like we're beating the system when we can find amazingly recorded LPs for $5 or less.  Pretty much no money for a treasure trove of audio bliss.